This second novel by a promising fantasy writer clearly is influenced by Robert P. Holdstock’s Mythago series, begun in 1984, and probably by Thomas Burnett Swann (1928-1976). The novel, however, has an individuality and freshness all its own.
In some respects, A Different Kingdom is connected to Paul Kearney’s earlier work, The Way to Babylon (1992). The Myrcans reappear, and Kearney explains that their appearance is different because considerable time has passed and they have lost their roles. Some other beings, notably the wood-wolves, also appeared in the previous book. Nevertheless, the link is tenuous, particularly in the light of the fact that A Different Kingdom is a reversal of the previous book’s concern with maintaining order.
Kearney concerns himself directly with the modern Irish experience. A Different Kingdom, as may be surmised from its title, may be read as an allegory of the relatively static qualities of Ulster life and character being menaced by the wilder Catholic world. It is fair to say, however, that Kearney’s later treatment of Catholicism, by no means totally unsympathetic, militates against this view.
The book has several strengths. The depiction of the 1950’s farm household at first appears so strong that the fantasy cannot rival it. The characterization also is strong, and the picture of growing up in a seemingly idyllic environment is portrayed...
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